Germany-based confectioner Haribo has been fined by the country’s competition watchdog for improperly sharing information on sales negotiations with three rivals.

The Bundeskartellamt said yesterday (1 August) it has imposed fines totalling EUR2.4m (US$2.9m) on the confectionery manufacturer and its sales representatives involved, for “exchanging competitively relevant information”.

According to the watchdog, in 2006 and 2007, senior sales staff of the companies involved, regularly met for informal discussions, during which, the responsible Haribo staff members participated in the “reciprocal exchange of information on the state of negotiations with various major retailers”.

“In this way the companies involved gained knowledge of demands from the retail trade for rebates from the other confectionery manufacturers represented in the talks as well as information about how the manufacturers had reacted or intended to react to these demands,” Bundeskartellamt said in a statement. “This type of information is usually treated by companies with strict confidence, and has influenced the companies’ own market conduct in the negotiations.”

Investigations are still ongoing against two other branded confectionery manufacturers, the watchdog said.

Apart from Haribo, the office only named the German arm of US chocolate giant Mars, which had alerted authorities and was thus not fined, it said.

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“Certain types of information exchange between competitors are inadmissible under competition law,” said Bundeskartellamt president Andreas Mundt. “Competition is impaired by such practices, even if they are not classical hardcore agreements about prices, supply areas, customers or quotas.”

In calculating the fine, the Bundeskartellamt said it took into account the fact that Haribo had cooperated with the authority in clarifying the facts of the case. The proceeding was ended by way of settlement.

The order to impose the fine is not yet final and can be appealed to the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court.